Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 7/3/12
DETROIT -- Until 2009, Southfield, Mich., native Darin Downs never thought he'd be compared to Harry Potter. Since one terrifying moment that summer, though, he's been "The Pitcher Who Lived." Downs was called up to his hometown Tigers on Tuesday and is ready to make his major-league debut, but he knows that things could have been much different. On Aug. 17, 2009, Downs was pitching for Double-A Montgomery when he was hit in the head with a line drive off the bat of Christian Marrero. "I remember everything," he said Tuesday. "The count, the hitter, the score and who we were playing." His memory wasn't the problem. Downs was unable to speak and had lost the use of the right side of his face. Within minutes, while vomiting blood, he was being rushed to a nearby hospital in Birmingham, Ala. He had a fractured skull and dangerous swelling of his brain. The attending doctor told his fiancee Christy that Downs was in serious danger. The neurosurgeons decided not to do surgery, and Downs remained in intensive care for the next two days before the swelling began to subside. He stayed in the hospital for nine days before being flown to Florida on a medical charter. "I think I thought I was out of danger when they put me on the charter," he said. "But it was still a very tough recovery." First, Downs had to deal with the effects of post-concussion syndrome, which included depression and fatigue. "I slept all the time, and I told myself that I wasn't going to play again," he said. "I was scared of getting hit again, but eventually I said the heck with it and got back out there." By spring training 2010, Downs was ready to face live batters again. He freely admits now that it wasn't easy. "I was a little timid when I started throwing batting practice, but I eventually convinced myself that whatever was going to happen was going to happen," he said. "It was one in a million. How many guys will throw a pitch today and nothing will happen? I just got over it." That season, Downs went 12-4 between Double-A and Triple-A in Tampa Bay's system, and he split times at the same two levels last year for the Marlins. This winter, he moved to his fourth organization, signing a minor-league deal with the Tigers. Pitching as a left-handed short reliever, he had posted a 2.15 ERA in 25 games when his life abruptly changed again. Monday night, as he and Christy -- now his wife -- were heading home from the Mud Hens' game, he got a call from Toledo manager Phil Nevin. "Phil called me and told me that I needed to come back to the park and talk to him," he said. "He didn't tell me anything directly on the phone, but I could tell from the tone in his voice that it was something good." It was. It was the call he'd been waiting for since joining the Chicago Cubs system as an 18-year-old in 2003. He was going to the big leagues. "It's been a long road for me, so this is a blessing to say the least," he said, pulling on a big-league uniform for the first time. Christy and their daughter, Briana, were at Comerica Park on Tuesday, along with her parents. His mom, who flew to Birmingham immediately after the accident, was getting on another plane -- this one to Detroit to see Wednesday's game. The family mood, obviously, has changed a great deal in three years -- from terror to joy. "It's a feel-good story," he said. "I've come so far from that moment -- to be so close to not making it, and now I'm here."
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